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Mali's Government to Sign Peace Deal without Rebels

Mali gathered regional heads-of-state, government officials and armed groups on Friday for a largely ceremonial signing of a peace accord expected to go ahead without the main Tuareg-led rebel alliance.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) initialed the document in Algiers on Thursday but has demanded concessions and says it will not attend Friday's ceremony in the Malian capital Bamako to rubber-stamp the deal.

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Mali's Tuareg Rebels Take Step towards Peace Deal

Mali's main Tuareg-led rebel alliance initialed a peace agreement with the government Thursday but demanded changes before signing a deal to end decades of conflict in the west African nation.

The international community is trying to persuade at least some Mali rebels to sign an accord in Bamako on Friday following months of U.N.-backed negotiations and numerous ceasefire violations.

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Mali Rebels to Initial Peace Deal on Thursday

Mali's Tuareg-led rebel alliance will initial a peace accord within 24 hours that was drawn up with the government to bring stability to the conflict-hit west African nation, Algerian mediators said on Wednesday.

Abdelaziz Benali Cherif, a spokesman for Algeria's foreign ministry, confirmed that the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) would signal its commitment to the document, thrashed out over months under U.N. auspices, in Algiers on Thursday.

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International Community Pushes Mali Rebels on Peace Accord

Despite numerous ceasefire violations, international brokers are desperate to persuade at least part of Mali's rebel alliance to sign a peace accord, so they can claim the process has been a success, say analysts.

French and Algerian foreign ministers Laurent Fabius and Ramtane Lamamra, in Algiers for talks on Tuesday, called on all parties to attend the signing ceremony in Bamako on Friday.

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France, Algeria Urge Mali Factions to Sign Peace Deal

France and Algeria on Tuesday urged Mali's warring factions to sign a peace deal between the Bamako government and northern rebel groups this week.

"We call in the clearest terms for the signing of this text, in the interest of peace in Mali and the region," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a press conference with his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra in Algiers.

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Rebels Kill Eight Malian Soldiers in Restive North

Eight Malian soldiers were killed Monday in the country's restive north in an ambush by fighters from the west African nation's main Tuareg-led rebel alliance, humanitarian and security sources told AFP.

"During an ambush of the Malian army by the rebel Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) between Timbuktu and Goundam on Monday morning, eight Malian soldiers were killed and several wounded," an official from a charity in the area said.

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Malian Army Clashes with Rebels

Soldiers exchanged fire with fighters from the main rebel alliance in Mali on Tuesday, military sources and a local official told AFP.

The fighting broke out around 5:00 am (0500 GMT) in the central market town of Tenenkou, a local councilor told AFP, identifying the insurgents as members of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

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U.N. Threatens Sanctions over Upsurge in Mali Fighting

The U.N. Security Council on Friday demanded an immediate halt to an upsurge in fighting in Mali and threatened to impose sanctions against those responsible for the violence.

The 15-member council said renewed fighting this week "threatens to undermine the peace process" and "demanded that the hostilities cease immediately."

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1 Dead, 6 Taken Hostage in North Mali Attack

Dozens of gunmen stormed a northern Mali town, killing one and taking six other people hostage in an attack blamed on Tuareg rebels, officials told AFP Friday.

"More than 50 armed men from the Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA) came Thursday to sow terror in Bintagoungou. They killed a man and took six hostages with them," said Hama Aboubacrine, mayor of the town about 90 kilometers to the west of Timbuktu.

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Clashes between Mali Army, Rebels Leave 19 Dead

Ten militants and nine soldiers died in clashes between the Malian army and the main Tuareg rebel alliance, the government said Thursday, raising fears for the country's fragile peace process.

The Tuareg-led Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA) provoked the deadliest battle in almost a year between security forces and the rebellion as its fighters ambushed the central town of Lere on Wednesday.

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